Are they witch hunts and retaliation or good management? I’ve seen many that were just witch hunts…
Another Mendota Heights police officer being investigated
By NICK FERRARO | email@example.com
PUBLISHED: October 13, 2016 at 7:01 pm | UPDATED: October 14, 2016 at 9:47 am
Another veteran Mendota Heights police officer is the focus of an internal investigation.
Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener said in an email to department employees Wednesday that officer Mike Shepard has been placed on paid administrative leave, pending results of an internal investigation.
“Administrative leave is not a disciplinary action,” Aschenbrener wrote.
City Administrator Mark McNeill said Thursday he cannot comment on why Shepard was put on paid leave.
Shepard, a Mendota Heights officer since 2006, also declined to comment.
“I wish I could,” he said.
Aschenbrener did not return a call seeking comment.
Shepard has been disciplined by the department four times, according to his personnel file.
In October 2013, he was suspended 2 1/2 days for violating the department’s harassment and discrimination policy and violating its squad video policy. In August 2011, he was suspended one day for insubordination.
Shepard has two written reprimands in his file — for disobeying an order and insubordination in January 2010, and for driving at excessive speed and “reflecting a poor image” of the department in September 2010.
3RD INVESTIGATION THIS YEAR
The new inquiry marks the third time this year the city has investigated one of its officers. Sgt. Eric Petersen and Sgt. Bobby Lambert were investigated after separate incidents that happened this year.
Lambert, the city’s most senior police officer, was put on paid administrative leave in March and fired in June, despite public pleas to the city council from residents and supporters. He appealed the firing by filing a grievance through his union; an arbitrator is scheduled to hear the matter Nov. 17.
Lambert has said he was fired because of mistakes he made while investigating a January 2016 drug-overdose death, but that they were “not significant enough to warrant termination.”
Lambert has said he believes his investigation is retaliation by Aschenbrener for Lambert’s role in pushing for a 2012 inquiry into accusations of wrongdoing by Petersen. Lambert claimed that the chief turned a blind eye to it.
The 2012 investigation showed no evidence of criminal intent by Petersen, who was accused of taking a picnic table from the former Lilydale Tennis and Health Club in 2008 for a barbecue at City Hall.
But it did lead to a lawsuit filed against the city by Scott Patrick, who accused Aschenbrener and others of harassment and workplace retaliation because he and Lambert accused Petersen of stealing the table.
Patrick was killed during a July 30, 2014, traffic stop. After mediation with the city, Patrick’s widow was awarded $50,000.
Aschenbrener has denied that Lambert’s internal investigation was retaliation.
In March, Petersen’s conduct again was under scrutiny. A complaint was filed against him after he borrowed a city vehicle to pick up a refrigerator for personal use. He also got two city public works employees — who were on the clock and being paid by the city — to help.
The complaint prompted an internal investigation that wrapped up in April — with no discipline of Petersen, the public works employees or their supervisors.
CULTURE OF ‘DIVISIVENESS’
Although inappropriate, Petersen’s actions did not rise to the level of a criminal offense, according to a report of the investigation’s findings. They did, however, shed light on what is described in the report as a “broad issue regarding use of public resources” by city employees.
In January, the city hired McGrath Consulting Group to assess the culture and climate of the police department. The consultant interviewed all department employees and elected officials and analyzed police documents and data.
A report of its study, presented to the city council in April, concluded that a culture of “divisiveness” within the department is creating difficult work conditions and inhibiting progress.
“It may also contribute to unsafe conditions as there is a lack of trust between the small number of persons creating problems and the majority of employees that support the administration,” the report read.